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Distracted driving laws need to be tightened

Distracted driving laws need to be tightened.
Distracted driving laws need to be tightened.
Various Sources

Motorcyclists know too well how distracted drivers can cause hardship when we are trying to share the road with them. Riders that commute to work or school have numerous tales of drivers being distracted by texting, eating, applying cosmetics, and more. They swerve into our lanes or simply cut riders off and, in return, we are trying to second-guess what their next move is going to be as we work to get our motorcycles away from them.

Riders will rev their motors and honk horns and in return from the cager there is either a jaunty wave or a one-finger salute. Bikers read comments left on motorcycle-related news articles about how the riders had it coming to them and in article after article about how law enforcement opted to not charge a driver with harming or killing a motorcyclist.

Motorcyclists are tired of being treated as second-class citizens.

In a recent article by Audrey Nesbitt, she provides the following example:

Roger Chan’s life was forever changed on Thanksgiving 2010. The former assistant city manager of Austin was riding his motorcycle, on his birthday, in front of Austin City Hall when a distracted driver struck him. The driver was paying so little attention that he did not stop immediately, and drug Chan along the road, shearing his leg off.

Now, years later, Chan is a motorcycle safety advocate and champions for stiffer laws to penalize distracted driving.

There have been some visually powerful PSA's in recent years about the need for drivers to be more aware of the riders which are sharing the road. Some of these videos include:

When asked about this escalating issue, Russ Brown said, ""We see the effects of distracted driving every day. People need to put their phones down PERIOD."

Things to consider:

Current Cell Phone Laws

Effective October 2013, twelve states, along with D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. All laws fall under primary enforcement, meaning that an officer may cite a driver for hand-held cell phone use without any other traffic violations taking place. Currently, no states ban all cell phone use for all drivers, but thirty-seven states and D.C. ban all cell phone use for novice drivers, and 20 states and D.C. prohibit use for school bus drivers.

In 2007, Washington was the first state to pass a texting ban. Now, forty-one states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have text messaging bans for all drivers. All but four have primary enforcement. Six states prohibit texting by novice drivers, and three states restrict school bus drivers from texting.

Are Tougher Laws Needed?

Distraction from cell phone use claimed 995 lives in 2009, and injured an additional 448,000 people. These numbers show just how serious distracted driving is however, penalties for hitting a motorcyclist with your car while using your cell phone are alarmingly minimal. In many cases, there is just a small fine or citation, and in some instances, there is no punishment at all.

On average, texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. Traveling at 65mph, a vehicle can cover 438 feet before the driver would look at the road again.

All of these statistics show that distracted driving from cell phone usage is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

  • Will increasing awareness work? People seem to know it’s illegal but do it anyway.
  • Would increasing the penalties be the way to seriously address this issue?